Pets are great companions for people at any age but an adult cat may be the perfect match for a senior citizen. If a senior is unable to walk a dog or doesn’t feel safe going outdoors in certain weather or when it’s dark, a cat could be an ideal companion because she can live exclusively indoors.
So Many Benefits
Cat-owning seniors have the opportunity for remaining active as they attend to the daily duties of life with a cat. Scooping the litter box, feeding the cat, brushing and playing will give the senior an opportunity to stay mobile without being too difficult. If the owner is unable to do certain chores such as scrubbing out the box and replacing litter, set up a schedule with a family member or friend who can take on that duty.
A senior with limited mobility can still enjoy playtime with the cat by using an interactive toy. The owner can sit in a chair and gently move the wand around so kitty can pounce on the target toy on the end of the string.
An adult cat can help ease loneliness for an older person. Studies indicate that living with a pet can help lower both blood pressure and cholesterol.
If space is a consideration, cats do very well in smaller environments.
If there’s a senior citizen in your life who is considering getting a cat and that person is not very mobile, unable to drive or has limitations that could compromise the health of the cat, be sure someone else in the family takes on the important role of monitoring the cat’s health. If the owner can’t drive the cat to the veterinarian, make sure all reminders and communication from the veterinary clinic are mailed to your residence so you can get the cat in for exams and necessary vaccinations. Make sure the owner knows they can call you at any time if there’s a question about the cat’s health or safety.
If there are senior citizens in your life, don’t overlook the opportunity of the love and joy that adult cats could bring to their lives.
Before helping a senior citizen adopt a cat
Plan ahead. Even if you’re sure the senior would enjoy having a cat, this is a commitment. Take the time to go over all that would be involved and make sure the person is comfortable with how life will change. Don’t surprise the person with a cat.
Don’t adopt a kitten. Kittens are fun but not a good choice for a senior citizen. Kittens are lots of work and can easily get themselves into dangerous situations without proper kitten-proofing and supervision. A kitten could easily get underfoot and cause the senior to trip.
Temperament. Don’t be in a rush. Make a good match.
All that goes with being a cat owner. Help get all the necessary supplies and show the owner how much food to feed, where to set things up, etc. Make sure the owner is capable of scooping the litter box and is aware of keeping the water bowl filled with fresh water.
Financial responsibility. Is the owner able to afford routine veterinary care and any emergency situations that may come up? If not, will you or another family member or friend take on that responsibility?
Monitoring. Each time you visit, physically check the cat over so you’ll be alerted to any lumps, bumps, injuries or any other potential problem that the owner may not have noticed. You may also have to help with grooming, nail trimming or administering medication.
Have a back-up plan. Know in advance who will take the cat if the senior citizen must relocate to a facility that doesn’t permit animals. What if something happens and the cat outlives the owner? Or, what if the situation changes and the senior no longer wants the cat or can no longer care for her?
Pam Johnson-Bennett is the star of Psycho Kitty airing on Discovery UK. She is author of seven best-selling books on cat behavior including Think Like a Cat: how to raise a well-adjusted cat – not a sour puss. Think Like a Cat has become known as the cat bible. Pam is considered a pioneer in the field of cat behavior consulting. In addition to her television series and public speaking engagements, Pam owns Cat Behavior Associates, a private veterinarian-referred behavior company in Nashville, TN. Cat Behavior Associates offers private cat behavior appointments on a limited basis. Pam Johnson-Bennett is a Certified Cat Behavior Consultant.